The first step in effectively dealing with anger is to recognize that whilst anger is a completely normal and natural reaction to grief, left unchecked it has the potential to cause significant harm.
When my husband announced he wanted a divorce, to say I was blindsided would be an understatement. I felt as though my world had been turned around and upside down and that I would never feel normal, whole or happy again. Yet the thing that took me MOST by surprise in the weeks following his announcement was the overwhelming ANGER I felt towards him, and the situation brought about by him. The emotion hit me completely unaware, pervading every bloody fiber of my being. It was intense and it was frightening. And I had to learn to deal effectively with anger.
At the time, anger was a reasonably foreign emotion to me – I had witnessed it in others but cannot say that I’d ever really felt it myself before – or if I had, certainly not with the intensity that I was now experiencing it. The most I can recall previously feeling during bad times was a high level of frustration – and that was easy enough to deal with. This new feeling was another thing entirely.
What was I angry about? On a conscious level, I was pissed that one person – one unthinking man – could have the power to devastatingly turn not just my life – but the life of two innocent kids upside down. But I have since learned that there was more to it than that.
Truth is, I was utterly and devastatingly heartbroken. I felt rejected, abandoned, isolated, alone. I was reeling from the shock that my husband, my first love, had found someone better than me. That he had chosen to be with her instead of me – the one he should have been with until his or my dying day. I felt humiliated, embarrassed and oh so freaking hurt.
Yet, I wasn’t quite ready at this stage to feel the full force of my sadness, so as a coping or dealing mechanism I was given a good dose of ANGER to deal with and process first. Feeling anger is a whole lot easier than feeling the full weight of sadness, yes?
All of this makes sense when we remember that a divorce is a death of sorts, and as with any death we must go through the process of grieving. After we’ve come through the initial denial stage of grief, we often feel anger. We’re no longer in complete denial of what happened, but we’re not yet ready to feel the full force of our depression and sadness.
The anger is a way for us to ‘fight’ what is happening to us. This ‘fight’ feeling is very natural and very normal and needs to get out. We may also feel anger towards our ex because subconsciously we are not yet ready to let go of him. We may believe that a bitter relationship is better than none at all. Looking back, I believe that this was the case with me.
So, how to effectively deal with anger? Well, I believe that the first step in dealing with it is to recognize that whilst anger is a completely normal and natural reaction to grief, left unchecked it has the potential to cause significant harm – personally, professionally and financially. The trick, therefore, is to:
- Accept that it won’t last forever, and
- Find safe and effective ways to deal with it in the meantime
Here are 7 constructive ways to deal effectively with ANGER when you’re going through a divorce:
1. Tell yourself its temporary: Remind yourself that it is part of the grieving process and that if dealt with properly it will pass – as ALL things pass. There need not be a definitive timeline, as long as you do not let it become a habit by deliberately holding on to it. Give yourself time to recover from what you’ve been through – it was no small thing.
2. Write it down: Express what you’re feeling in a journal – don’t edit anything, just get it all out. Or pen an angry letter to your ex (do NOT send this letter).
3. Talk about it: Talk with a trusted friend or therapist (NOT your ex).
4. Let it out: Sometimes, you will feel the need to literally drain your body of the negative energy. This is good, as long as you do it safely and privately. Punch a pillow, scream, kick your bed, wail. Do this until it is out of your system, then move on. Do it when the need next arises, then move on once again.
5. Engage professional help: Only you will know if or when this is needed. Therapy may be worth considering if you feel that you’re not moving on from your anger and you’re using it to suppress other emotions over a prolonged period.
6. Choose your battles: Be mindful of your triggers. Remind yourself that you do not need to react with anger over every.little.thing. Learn to save it for the big stuff. Pause before responding to the things that you know will trigger you.
7. Learn from it: This one thing probably helped me more than any other. After a time, I decided that I no longer wanted to be a victim of my circumstances – to what happened to me. I wanted a greater understanding of why things happened as they did, and why my reactions were as they were. I ultimately used this time to go deep within myself – to examine core beliefs and identify, and scrap, those which no longer served me. I learned to ‘own’ my reactions, rather than automatically blaming outside circumstances over which I had no control.
Lastly, remember always that you DESERVE to live a happy, peaceful and fulfilling life – this is true regardless of your circumstances. Don’t waste the opportunity to learn and grow from what you’re going through. Ask yourself if you really want to be the woman who chooses bitterness and resentment over forgiveness and happiness years after the event.
Actively choose to let go of your ex and what he did or didn’t do. THIS is truly the path to happiness and peace – and you deserve nothing less.